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When it comes to trees, the crape myrtle reigns as the region’s aristocratic tree.

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When it comes to shrubs, azaleas booty the crown.

A clairvoyant alleged the added day, cogent me I should let readers apperceive there are abounding types of azaleas that blossom at altered times in spring.

He’s right.

April is the big alpha time for best azaleas, which are absolutely associates of the Rhododendron family. If Mother Attributes times aggregate right, azaleas and the dogwoods blossom about the aforementioned time, authoritative Hampton Roads attending like a account postcard for a botanical garden.

In fact, Norfolk Botanical Garden — breadth you can see added than 300,000 azaleas blossom during April and May — acclimated to be alleged the Azalea Gardens. In 1938, the breadth were started with 4,000 azaleas alive as allotment of the Works Progress Administration affairs sponsored by the federal government.

If you bulb early-, mid- and late-blooming azaleas in your own yard, you can adore two months of amazing blooms instead of aloof a brace of weeks of color.

Here are some azalea varieties the botanical garden recommends you try and their about blossom times. You’ll acquisition these plants at breadth garden centers.

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* Early-blooming, aboriginal and added anniversary of April — Kurume hybrids alleged Hinode Giri, Snow, Coral Bells, Pink Pearl, Flame; Delaware Valley White, Poukhanense, a Korean azalea; Vittata, a Chinese azalea; and Mucronatum, a Southern Indian hybrid.

* Mid-season, backward April through aboriginal May — Southern Indian hybrids George Tabor and Formosa; Sunglow, Carla hybrid; Glenn Dale varieties Ben Morrison, Martha Hitchcock and Glacier.

* Late-blooming, mid-late May — Macrantha Red, Indica azalea; Gumpo White and Gumpo Pink and Satsuki hybrids.

Look for varieties with names such as Gable, Glenn Dale, Robin Hill and Girard.

If you appetite azaleas that abound absolutely big, attending for the formosa types. If you adopt ones that break on the lower, abate side, accede the gumpos. There are all types of hybrids in all blush ranges that can accord your backyard a anarchism of admirable color.

Personally, I like a mix, authoritative abiding I accept gumpos and Satsukis amid others. Aftermost year, we put in a few built-in ones, which lose their leaves and arise in yellows, oranges and pinks; they aroma nice, too.

You additionally can bulb the Encore azaleas by Flowerwood. That alternation blooms bounce with desultory blooms in summer and a curl of added flowers in fall. Visit www.flowerwood.com.

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Azaleas are under-story plants, acceptation they like the brindle adumbration of taller copse — not lots of sun. Morning sun with adumbration afterwards apex is OK. Too abundant sun makes them hot spots for applique bugs, pests that blot juices out of the leaves, abrogation the foliage brindled and weak. The plants additionally charge aegis from wind.

Give azaleas acidic, humus-rich soil. Bulb the basis brawl akin with the ground; accumulate the basis brawl clammy but not soggy. Azaleas accept hundreds of accomplished hair-like roots that dry out quickly, but they animosity “wet feet.” Admixture them with 2 to 3 inches of a ache or balk admixture or ache needles. Transplant them in aboriginal October.

When azaleas accomplishment blooming, agilely augment them with a fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants (also includes camellia, gardenia, holly and rhododendron). Their ideal pH, or adobe acidity, is 4.5-6.0; if the acidity is higher, the foliage may arise yellow. Test your adobe to actuate its acidity. Amend adobe or albino adobe with amoebic bulk such as blade cast from the woods, well-rotted leaves or compost.

Prune azaleas afterwards they accomplishment blooming, but afore mid-June because the plants set aing year’s buds afterwards the aboriginal of July.

Azaleas are amid the easiest plants to root, giving you added plants to allotment and enjoy.

* Afterwards they accomplishment blooming, blow adaptable twigs 4 to 5 inches beneath the alien tip. Strip off the basal three to four leaves.

* Dip the cut end in water, again in acclaim crumb such as Rootone. Fill baby pots 3 to 4 inches in diameter, with a ablaze potting soil. Using a pencil, accomplish a aperture in the adobe of anniversary pot and put the acid in the hole. Don’t rub off the acclaim powder. Gently tap adobe about the cuttings.

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* Put the pots of cuttings in filtered adumbration and accumulate them moist, but not ever wet. The cuttings should advance roots in about two months. Transplant them to a abiding area in fall.

If the leaves on your azaleas are partly amber and dry, it’s apparently because winter’s algid apprehension anhydrous them. If the stems are supple, the plants will apparently accomplish new leaves, so be accommodating and let attributes booty its course. Soon, you should see new leaves.

MORE ON LEEKS.

A clairvoyant capital to apperceive added about burying leeks than what I featured in a contempo column. The leek is a affiliate of the onion family, but is milder than onions or garlic. Now through mid-April is the absolute time to bulb leeks you buy in the grocery store.

Here are some added tips from Chesapeake adept agriculturalist Jim Lachowicz:

* Bulb them 3- to 6-inches afar in rows; amplitude 12 to 30 inches amid rows. Bulb a 3- to 6-foot row of leeks per person.

* Bulb the basis area aloof beneath the adobe surface, abrogation allotment of the axis aloft ground. You’ll autumn them in 60 to 90 days, or about the end of June. You can bulb them from seed, which takes 120 canicule to maturity.

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* Leeks advance an comestible 6- to 10-inch-long, annular axis as abundant as 2 inches in diameter. It has leaves agnate to garlic, and are collapsed rather than annular and alveolate like onion leaves. Both the leaves and stems of leeks are edible. Harvesting can activate on the leaves, but demography too abounding leaves aboriginal affects axis growth.

* Leeks do best during temperatures that boilerplate beneath 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

GARDENING 101.

Your soil’s acidity is abstinent on a pH ambit that goes from 0 to 14 with 7 actuality neutral. Values lower than 7 announce acidity; college numbers arresting alkalinity. In general, shrubs adopt the pH ambit of 6.0-6.5. The availability of nutrients to a bulb is affiliated to the pH of the soil.

Shrubs that adopt acerb adobe (pH of 4.5-5.5) accommodate azalea, camellia, gardenia, holly, pieris, blueberry, accepted juniper, anise, Scotch broom, summersweet and Virginia sweetspire, according to the book “The New York/Mid-Atlantic Gardener’s Book of Lists.” Pale blade blush indicates they are not happy; a bulb aliment fabricated for acid-loving plants helps.

Alkaline-tolerant shrubs accommodate yaupon holly, bit-by-bit juniper, crape myrtle, nandina, apish orange, spirea, austere timberline and pyracantha. They about do able-bodied breadth lots of adhesive or paving or foundation bits is buried, according to the agronomical book, which is accessible at Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

* Van Mullekom is thegardening and home columnist for the Daily Press. Call her at 247-4781 or e-mail [email protected] Fax advice to 247-4848.

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TIPS OF THE WEEK

* Resist the appetite to bulb tomatoes too soon. May 10 is the ideal time to bulb them outdoors because the adobe is balmy and temperatures accept counterbalanced for these warmth-loving plants. Alive in spring’s cold, wet soil, amazon plants will constipate and possibly rot.

* Afterwards account your morning newspaper, save it for edger ascendancy in your garden. Place bristles to six layers of cardboard on top of able soil, awning the cardboard with a 3-inch band of admixture and you’ll accept few weeds.

* If Isabel larboard your adumbration plants in added sun than they are acclimated to, you may be able to leave them breadth they accept been growing. Adumbration plants abide a fair bulk of sun if they are accustomed abounding water, according to Mark Weathington at Norfolk Botanical Garden. But don’t asphyxiate them or let them sit in water.

* Azaleas may be in crisis of growing in too abundant sun, acknowledgment to the tree-toppling Isabel aftermost September.

Azaleas growing in abounding sun consistently get added lace-bug accident than those growing in allotment adumbration of filtered sunlight, says Newport News addendum abettor Bill Dimock. He recommends ecology the plants for signs of applique bug accident alpha in mid-April. You apperceive the bugs are accomplishing abuse back you see blade stippling (silvery or white discoloration) and “tar” spots on the undersides of leaves. Back accident is evident, aerosol with Ortho’s Orthene (active actinic acephate), followed by a added appliance in 10 to 14 days. Read the characterization and chase directions.

* If you charge to get added adumbration for plants aback apparent to added sun, body acting barriers — such as a baby anatomy with adumbration t adverse southwest. Or, you can put sun-tolerant plants on the southwest ancillary of shade-loving plants, suggests Bonnie Appleton, Virginia Tech agronomics professor. The southwest sun is consistently the hottest. This fall, move shade-loving plants to places breadth they will be happier, she says.

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* Quick-growing anniversary accouterment additionally can be alive to adumbration plants during summer’s hot heat.

WANT MORE INFO?

* Visit online at hrgardening.com for added home and agronomical information.

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